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‘Mummy please don’t let them hurt me any more’: Heartbreaking final request of brave Broch 3-year-old Hudson Nicol

The tiny Fraserburgh "warrior" suffered a rare type of leukaemia.

Three-year-old Hudson Nicol of Fraserburgh.
Three-year-old Hudson Nicol of Fraserburgh.

The parents of Broch three-year-old Hudson Nicol have paid tribute to their “brave boy” who died following a 10-month battle with leukaemia.

The “little warrior” from Fraserburgh, who endured traumatic surgery as a newborn, never lost his smile despite relentless chemotherapy and times of extreme pain.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” said mum-of-three Stephanie McKay. “He was a special, special little boy.”

‘Perfect’ baby boy

Hudson William Nicol was born on July 24, 2020 in Aberdeen Maternity Hospital. Second son of Stephanie McKay and Stephen Nicol, he weighed a “perfect” 7lbs 14oz but soon after birth, a CT scan revealed an issue with the fusing of his skull.

Stephen Nicol and Stephanie McKay with newborn Hudson.

Craniosynostosis – a condition where skull bones fuse before the brain is fully formed – meant baby Hudson faced major surgery at just six months old.

“We noticed that his “soft spot” on the top of his head, was smaller than it should be,” said Stephanie who grew up in Macduff. “But it came as a shock to know he would have to have such gruelling surgery.”

Never without a smile, little Hudson Nicol.

The family, then living in Inverallochy, took Hudson to Glasgow Sick Children’s Hospital for treatment.

Surviving surgery, always with a smile

With big brother Calvin to look after too, it was a difficult time for Stephanie and Stephen, who works in security for the Fergus Gas Terminal.

“Thankfully Hudson did really well. After a week in hospital we were able to bring him home. Unbelievable really, given how traumatic the process was. They had to break his skull and put it back together.

“Doctors said it was the first time everything had gone so quickly and smoothly doing that type of op.”

Smiler Hudson Nicol.

Bouncing back to normality, the smiley, car-obsessed toddler returned to his usual happy self, and when he was about two years old Stephen, Stephanie, Calvin and Hudson moved to Fraserburgh, where Stephen grew up.

Life returned to normal and the family celebrated the arrival of their third boy, Roman in May 2022.

‘Mummy my back is sore’

However, the following summer, in June 2023 Hudson began complaining about intermittent pain in his lower back.

“My mum’s a nurse and she advised me to see a doctor. She knew it wasn’t normal for a little boy to be complaining of a bad back.

“After a night where he couldn’t sleep for the pain, I saw a GP.

Dad Stephen Nicol with partner Stephanie McKay and their little boy, Hudson.

“He reassured me because he was moving about he was probably fine but did notice symptoms of tonsilitis,” explained Stephanie.

When it happened a second time – with Hudson unable to sleep through the night and then becoming so sore he couldn’t move off the couch the next morning, they took him back to see a doctor.

“We saw a different person who sent us up to Aberdeen hospital right away.”

Devastating cancer diagnosis

While they waited for blood test results medics initially thought little Hudson may have a spine infection. Their worst fears were realised, however, when it was confirmed the tot’s pain was due to acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).

“As soon as I heard those words my mind went to the worst possible scenario. I had recently lost my dad to cancer,” Stephanie said, “and I worried immediately we would lose Hudson.”

Happy family: Stephen Nicol and Stephanie McKay with their boys Calvin, Hudson and baby Roman.

Although he faced a barrage of tests and treatments his doctors were hopeful that he had the mildest type of blood cancer, and that he could be cured.

The couple explained to their boys what was happening in terms they could understand but a second devastating blow came when a rare chromosomal abnormality was detected.

Chromosome complications

The Philadelphia Chromosome – a rare subtype of his type of leukaemia – meant tiny Hudson would face an even more rigorous and intense treatment regime.

“From the beginning, we knew he was going to have chemotherapy, in various forms, for two to three years. It initially made him quite sick but once we got his medicines sorted it became more manageable.

Hudson with his granny Shirley McKay.

“We were able to have some nice days out and through it all he never lost his smile,” said dad Stephen.

Hudson came to understand what it meant to go to theatre and to have blood transfusions, terms most pre-schoolers will never have to comprehend.

‘Something just wasn’t right’

After six months the family received the good news that the leukaemia had gone, but more “blasts” of treatment were required to rid his body of the Philadelphia chromosomal impact.

At the start of last month Hudson began experiencing flu-like symptoms.

In and out of hospital to get his temperature under control, doctors felt it was imperative his treatment regime continued.

In February the family bought Hudson his dog Remi ‘to cheer everyone up’.

“We got home on the 6th but very quickly we had to take him back in that evening. He just wasn’t right,” said Stephen.

Hudson remained in hospital but instead of his usual cheery self, bouncing back, he started to decline.

By Wednesday, May 15 he was unable to sleep for pain and needed oxygen. The following day he was transferred to the high dependency unit (HDU).

‘Please don’t let them hurt me any more’

Thanks to being on “maintenance treatment” Hudson’s hair, eyebrows and eyelashes had started growing back and their brown-eyed boy was looking more like his old self. It made the reality of his worsening health even harder to understand.

“This decline was completely unexpected. Nobody – not us or the doctors predicted it would come to this,” said Stephanie. “The move to HDU alerted us to how serious it was but then Hudson said two things to me, that broke my heart.

Family memories: Stephanie McKay and her partner Stephen Nicol with their boys, Calvin, Roman and little Hudson.

“First, he said ‘mummy, please don’t let them hurt me any more.’ Then, as he became more tired and as his pain increased he said he just wanted to go to sleep.”

Thoughtful and kind wee boy

Hudson passed away in hospital on Thursday, May 16.

“I remember just rubbing his arm and praying. I was saying ‘God please help him, help him with this pain.’

“In the days after it, I felt like my prayers hadn’t been answered but now I believe God took the pain away by taking Hudson.”

Hudson Nicol with his big brother Calvin, in hospital.

Sharing happy moments with us, Stephanie recalls how thoughtful Hudson was. Not even four years old he would always tell the nurses that his “mum would quite like a cup of tea” and he would spend hours with his dad imagining trips to the moon together.

Influenced by Gladiator-type movies Stephen and Hudson shared special “strength and honour” moments together. These are especially treasured by Stephen now.

Special celebration of Hudson’s life

With the help of Fraserburgh Funeral Services Stephanie and Stephen were able to bring Hudson home before his funeral.

Wearing his favourite Hot Wheels tracksuit and Cars long-sleeved t-shirt, he was laid to rest in a tiny Lightning McQueen coffin.

A celebration of his life took place at AoG Central Church in the Broch, where the Ghostbusters theme and a track that Hudson and his mum would dance to, were played.

Hudson loved his time in the pool on holiday in April at Piperdam.

“He was cars daft. Whenever the hospital play team would ask him what he wanted he always asked for cars. Even if he had all the cars they had, he always wished for more,” mum added.

“We had to make sure he had cars involved in his funeral.”

“We just miss him so much,” said Stephen. “He was a little warrior, and our little star.”

Never forgotten

When the couple tie the knot in Banff later this year Hudson’s photos will be on display and his brothers will carry a framed image as part of the ceremony.

“He was such a special little boy. I feel honoured to be his mummy but I just can’t believe he’s no longer with us. He was such a character.

Beautiful boy: Hudson William Nicol 24/7/2020 – 16/5/2024.

“How can this happen to a three-year-old? We’ll never know, I guess. But I do know we’ll never forget him.”

Hudson is survived by his parents, and his brothers Calvin, nine, and Roman, two.

He was the beloved grandson of Forbes, Audrey, Shirley and the late William – from whom Hudson gets his middle name.